Owners’ marks revealing

This bookplate was designed for Wellington writer Pat Lawlor. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
This bookplate was designed for Wellington writer Pat Lawlor. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
An exhibition on bookplates and labels and the art of belonging opens at the University of Otago central library today.

Entitled "This Book Belongs to ...", the show features "a wonderful array of bookplates, book labels, and inscriptions found inside books, that assert ownership".

"They are absolutely works of art," special collections librarian Donald Kerr said yesterday.

Often pasted on the front endpaper, these design and provenance statements were "quite beautiful", Dr Kerr said.

Marking ownership or provenance by inserting bookplates, book labels, stamps or inscriptions into a book was part of a long tradition, dating from the first printing presses in the 1450s, when multiple copies of printed editions were produced.

Book collectors began amassing libraries to support their intellectual pursuits, or just for show.

Many of the first bookplates were based on coats of arms that aristocrats and landed gentry had the right to bear.

However, as book collecting developed more downmarket, more owners had no coats of arms to use.

Instead, they used their own pictorial bookplates that often contained symbols or objects reflecting personal interests.

The exhibition runs until July 10.

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